Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday yoga and the science of love

I can’t think of a better way to start a Sunday than with mysore practice with yogi friends followed by a group coffee date at La Colombe… perfect!

I love seeing our little yoga family growing here: new students, new friends, and new babies! Two of our beautiful ladies are now pregnant, and it’s such a treat to get to practice with them every morning (and have one of them be our amazing teacher)!

This is one reason we chose our latest book club book to be The Scientification of Love, by Michel Odent.

It’s about the science behind love (i.e. falling love, life partnership, pregnancy, giving birth, raising a child). The author, Michel Odent, is a French obstetrician whose research focuses on the primal period (the time of life between birth and 1 year of age), and he correlates events during this time period with health and behaviors later in life.

It’s a fascinating book. Here are some highlights:
  1. In some animals, pain during birth correlates with love for the newborn. Research in animals has shown that when painkillers/anesthesia are given during birth, some mothers will actually reject their newborns (they do not seem to recognize it as their own). For example, ewes given epidurals will not take care of their lambs!
  2. Oxytocin is the “hormone of love.” You may have heard about this hormone because it’s released during breastfeeding (builds the mother-child bond). In addition, both men and women release it during sexual activity/orgasm. Well, we also release it when we share a meal with someone! (One question that came up: do our oxytocin levels rise when we practice yoga together  each morning?)
  3. Love-sickness is a real thing. Anyone who has ever been in love knows this feeling: the physical illness you get when you lose or are separated from your loved one (knot in the stomach, loss of appetite, etc). This is an actual chemical withdrawal of neurotransmitters (i.e. phenylethylamine - PEA), and you are craving them. 
  4. Falling in love has chemical similarities to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). You know the feeling: you meet someone, you get crushy, you fall in love, and you develop OCD tendencies with this person (similarly with a new baby). When people fall in love they actually have lower levels of serotonin in the brain, just like people with clinically diagnosed OCD. 


  1. It sounds fascinating but I am SO skeptical. For example, this: "Pain during birth correlates with love for a newborn. Research in animals has shown that when painkillers are given during birth, some mothers will actually reject their newborns. Example: Ewes given epidurals will not take care of their lambs!"
    What does this mean, that people who adopt their babies feel less love? That women need to suffer during birth, even when modern medicine means we don't have to? I just don't believe it, maybe because it sounds like so much else from the pro-natural birth movement that seems designed to promote an agenda...

  2. Good to be skeptical (I am too)! I think the important thing to remember here is that this statement is based on animal studies acting out of instinct, not humans acting out of conscious complex thought. This says nothing about the ability to develop love over time (only that time immediately after birth when a mother accepts the newborn as her own).

    You are exactly right (and this is important for all research): we cannot go and freely apply these findings to the human experience!

  3. good point on humans & conscious complex thought! thank you!